Cashing In on Linux

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2002-10-07 Print this article Print

Retailers are turning to Linux to achieve savings in development costs and capital expenditures.

Retail businesses can operate in hundreds, even thousands, of dispersed geographic locations and be staffed by employees with little, if any, IT training. But slim profit margins force IT directors to keep costs as low as possible.

Some retail operations are turning to Linux, the open-source operating system that, unlike commercial operating systems, comes with no license fee.

In addition to the lower upfront cost, retailers such as Papa Johns International Inc. have found that Linux can give them control of development costs.

Papa Johns is rolling out Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux distribution on POS (point-of-sale) systems in its 2,900 restaurants, according to a report released last month by International Data Corp., of Framingham, Mass. Terry Foster, director of field systems development at Papa Johns, told IDC that he expects the Linux-based systems to recover faster from crashes. Foster said he plans to install the Red Hat operating system and new applications on existing equipment and thereby get more mileage from hardware.

By upgrading from its Unix-based systems, the company, based in Louisville, Ky., said it expects to see significant savings in capital expenditures and provide a platform that can be remotely upgraded to meet changes in operations and marketing.

Papa Johns has set up its POS devices so that they are extensible to personal digital assistants, touch-screens and other new technologies.

Papa Johns is not alone. IBM late last month announced it had signed up two new retail customers to Red Hat Linux: movie theater chain Regal Entertainment Group Inc. and Brazilian retailer Casas Bahia.

"The state of the economy means that retail firms are increasingly looking at cost as a vital component of their IT decisions. The costs are generally lower for Linux implementations than with any other environment, and the reliability and uptime is better," said John Sarsgard, IBMs vice president of Linux Solutions, in Somers, N.Y. "The total cost of a Linux implementation is, in my opinion, also significantly lower than for other competitive solutions."

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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